Workshop Part 7:
Children and Sacrifice
WORKSHOP VIDEO PART 7: Children and Sacrifice
In Video Part 7 Itamar talks about how his father urged him to fight with the Israeli army in Lebanon, as being safer than going to prison for refusing to fight. Bassam talks about how easy it would be to avenge his daughter’s death by killing Israelis. But his other children would then be fatherless with no-one to guide them.
They both talk about the horror of living with the stain of blood on their hands. Jessica Benjamin describes how Itamar is not able to dissociate killing from loving. Jessica introduces the notion of ‘transgression’ against national or revolutionary collective narratives, which honour and reward sacrificing oneself or ones children through killing or dying.
- To learn from our two protagonists that being sent to die, or to kill for your country does not benefit individual, family, or country.
- To learn that as dead warrior-heroes, besides sacrificing themselves, they will have abandoned and sacrificed their children; and as surviving warrior-killers they become the traumatised victims of their governments’ warmongering.
- The importance of governments to engage Ethical Mindsets and provide a secure base of hospitality and care, within a democratic and just culture which extends to their neighbours; all peoples survive and flourish together.
- In the absence of a secure base the politics of fear dominates social and economic policies and encourages war-mongering.
Issues to Explore:
- What process have Itamar and Bassam undergone to refuse to sacrifice themselves, or children? What is the meaning of sacrifice in this Video Part?
- How do you understand Itamar’s father’s fear of what might happen to Itamar as a ‘refusenik’?
- Why is Itamar unable to imagine caressing someone with his blood stained hands, and Bassam is not able to look at blood?
- Explore the difference between sacrificing yourself by being killed, sacrificing yourself by killing someone else, and sacrificing the younger generation for your ideology.
- When a father sends a child to military service, who or what is being sacrificed?
- What does Jessica Benjamin mean by the statement, “…revolutionary movements sacrifice their children? Is this true for statutory armies?
Facilitating the Workshop:
- Think through the different concepts of sacrifice, starting with willingness to kill to prove loyalty (Abraham/Ibrahim).
The group might be encouraged to look at the function of ‘sacrifice’ to prove loyalty or submission by looking at accounts of what is expected of Abraham and Isaac in the Torah, and Ibrahim and Ishmael in the Quran.
- Next consider sacrifice for ‘the greater good’ (Jesus Christ).
The group could look at the story of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, in which the father was willing to kill and the son was willing to die to save the world. Encourage the group to look at this story in relation to mandatory conscription to save the country.
- Now think about the principle of non-violence, and refusal to fight, by looking at World War I when women handed out white feathers to non-combatants.
- Consider the idea of being a warrior as heroism and refusing to fight being cowardice.
Suggest that the group look at the proposition from this viewpoint, and then reverse the statements.
- Where would you place sacrifice and refusal to sacrifice on The Ethical Mindset diagram?
KEYWORDS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Blood Stain Metaphor
Bassam’s and Itamar’s reaction to blood reminds us of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Out damn spot’ response to her part in killing. She is punished with guilt, anguish, madness, and eventual suicide. Likewise the stain on Cain’s head after killing Abel. The ‘blood stain’ is a metaphor which represents the horror of killing.
Denial is probably one of the best known defence mechanisms, used often to describe situations in which people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth (i.e. "He's in denial."). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Drug addicts or alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, while victims of traumatic events may deny that the event ever occurred.
Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. While this may save us from anxiety or pain, denial also requires a substantial investment of energy. Because of this, other defences are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness. In many cases, there might be overwhelming evidence that something is true, yet the person will continue to deny its existence or truth because it is too uncomfortable to face. Denial can involve a flat out rejection of the existence of a fact or reality. In other cases, it might involve admitting that something is true, but minimizing its importance. Sometimes people will accept reality and the seriousness of the fact, but they will deny their own responsibility and instead blame other people or other outside forces.
Dissociation involves a vertical splitting of the ego that results in two or more self states that are more or less organised and independently functioning. they alternate in consciousness ..and emerge separately to think, behave, remember and feel. Such dissociated states are unavailable to the rest of the personality….., creating what are known familiarly as “Jekyll and Hyde” alternations in states of mind, behaviour, and consciousness which cannot be brought together (at that time). Or a person may have less dramatic and hard to identify separations between parts of themselves that were acceptable and unacceptable to their early caregivers. The dissociated self state’s presence is felt through inexplicable or recurrent intrusive images, symptoms and actions, psychosomatic conditions or recurrent nightmares, anxiety reactions, or triggered memories. This also happens in what we call post-traumatic stress disorder.
Its severe form is induced by trauma involving pain, terror or danger and helplessness. When a person’s system of self protection is overwhelmed and disorganized, the traumatic experience is dissociated and encapsulated within the person as a separate self state, disconnected from a person’s ordinary self experience. While dissociation may provide a temporarily effective defense mechanism, this kind of fragmentation produces the severance of normally integrated mind and body functions. Its consequences can be seen in debilitating symptoms produced by post traumatic stress disorder.
The Ethical Mindset with Congruent Behaviours is a concept developed by the Moving Beyond Violence team. The Ethical Mindset facilitates stepping out of denial of destructive collective narratives, and out of violence. This denial refers to the mental roadblocks that prevent us from acknowledging the irreducible humanity of others, overcoming whatever resistance we may have to disqualify difference and thus engaging an Ethical Mindset, accompanied by congruent behaviours.
The MBV multi-stage guided process is designed to explore stepping out of denial and into an Ethical Mindset. The congruent behaviours are those that engage fundamental hospitality and care. They maybe dictates of familial, cultural, religious, or political cultures; the hospitality, protection and care are prerequisites for a safe and just society. Our protagonists’ stories help us identify the internal and external processes which led to their Ethical Mindset. At times of failure the Ethical Mindset may be repaired through Jessica Benjamin’s Moral Third which engages recognition, empathy and a willingness to dialogue in a search for an alternative way.
The offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship.
Victimhood refers to the identity process or state of mind developed in violent and long conflicts, in which at least one party (sometimes both) reconstructs its identity around its victimization by the other side; it describes and defines the situation of conflict the parties live with. Victimhood becomes an integral part of personal and collective identity.... The sense of helplessness can be overcome by impact on the other and the other's recognition of you. (Wikipedia)